With speculation that Ryan Newman might be out of a ride at Richard Childress Racing following the 2016 season, he is ecstatic to be with the team.
In the third and final year of his current contract with RCR, Newman has experienced the ups and downs of a race team. This is something that he has welcomed in the past, making him an established veteran of the sport.
“Tying it all together, that’s the toughest part of our whole sport,” Newman told Speedway Digest. “One bad pit stop, one bad moment, one bad strategy call, one bad move as a driver, one bad restart can take you out of the race. There was a time in our sport that I think you had to be the best at everything, but now you need to damn near be the best at everything.”
In his 15th year in the Sprint Cup Series, Newman currently sits 17th in the standings, two points shy of the Chase cutoff after 11 races. As the halfway point of the race to the Chase approaches, the 38-year-old feels the pressure to perform.
”We’ve performed better than we’ve finished,” Newman elaborated. “We’ve had three tire failures in 11 races. Some of it has been self-inflicted, some of it hasn’t. But in the end, it’s part of racing and hopefully we got it out of the way.”
The Indiana native has raced for his livelihood several different times. In 2013, a week after being informed that he would not be back with Stewart-Haas Racing, he won the Brickyard 400.
But this year is different.
Over the span of his first two seasons with RCR, Newman was known for consistency, accumulating 31 top 10 finishes and making the Chase both years. He made it to the championship race with a shot at the title in 2014, his first year with the organization. Finishing second at Homestead that evening has been his best result in the No. 31 machine.
Heading into the summer months, the circuit is heading to some of Newman’s better tracks. He has nine career poles at Charlotte, with a best result of second. In a couple of months, the Cup Series heads to New Hampshire, which is arguably the best track for him with three career wins, 17 top 10 finishes and an average finish of 13.5.
“I think our cars are better than they were at this time last year hands down,” Newman said. “You’ve got to put everything together in this series. The competition level is so tough. You can’t afford to have one mistake.”
Through 11 races in 2016, the No. 31 car has qualified three top five starts. That is the same number that he had in all of 2015.
The chemistry within the organization is something that Newman is proud to be a part of and would seemingly be tough for him to leave. Crew chief Luke Lambert and he have adapted to each other’s preferences, but the NASCAR veteran knows that the performance needs to improve.
“I’ve never been a part of an organization that worked more closely together like this,” Newman said. “To me, it’s as good as it can get. Once we can get the success it will get better yet.”
RCR is in a current slump of 84 races without going to Victory Lane. Ever since Kevin Harvick left the team at the end of 2013 season, the organization has struggled to find its groove back.
However, this season there is more to be proud of.
Newman’s teammate Austin Dillon currently sits eighth in points. Though he admits he can’t learn much from the third-year driver, the two work closely together and just recently began putting all eight cylinders together.
“I think it’s been in a rebuilding process,” he said. “I think our cars have been competitive. I think that at one point in 2014 our engines were our weak point. I think last year we started missing it a little on the car side and I think we are in the process of putting it all back together.”
As 2016 progresses, Newman is essentially driving for his life. With Richard Childress’ grandson, Ty Dillon waiting in the helm for a ride in the Cup Series, it’s more than likely that one of the current drivers at RCR has to go. Paul Menard has sponsorship from his father and the older Dillon is having the best year of his tenure with the team.
Newman is one of the older statesmen in the garage and has no plans of retiring as long as he has a competitive car.
“As long as they will have me drive the racecar and it’s a good racecar and it’s fun to do it then I’ll do it as long as it makes sense,” he said.
With his future in question, Newman admits that he wants to figure out where he stands quickly. The further that it progresses into the season, the harder it will be to find a competitive ride for the following campaign.
“We are so focused on this year and winning races to get ourselves a Chase birth,” Newman said. “There’s a time to talk about it and you always want to get it done sooner rather than later. I just hope it’s not later.”